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Friday Night's (9/7/2018) Sermon: We're all in this together

This week’s Torah portion is “Nitzavim”. It is one of the last portions of Deuteronomy as we come to the end of the Torah and will, in a few weeks, re-roll and start again from Genesis. This is also Moshe Rabbeinu’s last day on Earth and his third discourse.

“Nitzavim” – You are all standing here, all of you who are here and all of you who are not here. About whom is Moshe talking? The people there is obvious. What about the people who are not there? He is referring to us.

Yes, we were there. All of us. Those of us, the Israelites who were physically present and those of us who were present, let us say, spiritually.

This invites questioning, analysis and a lot of thought. What do you think he meant by that? The sages are pretty much in agreement that all of us who are Jews were there at this final address.

In Genesis, which we will soon be starting again, Hashem says, “let Us make man in Our image”. Since G-d is not a physical being, this would mean that He made us in His spiritual image. Since G-d is immortal, there is a part of us that is also immortal. Our souls, that which makes us a conscious being, have always been around in one form or another.

One may say that while our immortal selves were present at that important time, were we present spiritually, or we were present in a different life? Many of us believe in the transmigration of the soul or reincarnation. So that would mean that we were present in a previous life.

What are the other implications? That if we were all there in one form or another, then we’ve always been together from, literally, day one. As Jews, we have traveled these paths and journeys as one people. So…since we’re all in this together—always have been and always will be—we have to stick together and support each other.

This concept becomes prominent as we are approaching the High Holidays. The two main ideas are “t’shuva” and “repentance”. “T’shuva” means return, and we need to return to Torah. Moses continues with his third discourse by saying that people have a tendency to forget where their good fortune comes from, and that’s Hashem. Since Hashem give us, as the psalm says, everything we need, then really fortune is not involved at all. This is the time to remember that.

The second concept is repentance. During the Days of Awe, the ten days between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur, we are to be especially vigilant in righting any wrongs we may have committed. If we haven’t apologized or sought forgiveness from certain people, now’s the time. If we are to be sincere in asking Hashem for forgiveness for any wrongs we may have done, we certainly have to seek out our fellows and do the same. Not that we shouldn’t have done it already, but this is our last chance.

Now, as we go through the “vidui”, the confessional, during Yom Kippur, we come upon the sin of being haughty. What does this mean? Perhaps we were nasty to someone because that particular person deserved it. Yes, they brought it on by themselves by their behavior and we were just reacting to their offenses. It’s their fault and they should be apologizing to us!

No. And this is the very idea of what haughty is. We’re playing god. We have judged, found them guilty, and now we are executing a judgement that they certainly deserve. So I’m not apologizing to them—even though they may have apologized to me.

Isn’t that hard, though, to be humble? We just have to get over ourselves. Sometimes, no, a lot of times, we just have to accept the fact that as humans, we’re flawed. Isn’t that the whole point of the High Holidays? It’s asking for one more chance. In order to get that one more chance, we have to be sincere. And that means we have to swallow our pride and, as the commercial says, just do it.

This means risking vulnerability and seeing that maybe we’re not as perfect as we think we are. (The subject of the next sermon). But that’s what keeps us growing, isn’t it? If we’re perfect, and we can probably all agree that we’re not—even those that are pretty close—then there’s no where to go. And we can all probably agree as well that that’s not the case.

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